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Emotional intelligence in Poland: Developments in teachers’ emotional abilities

Marzena Martyniak and John Pellitteri


Poland is one of the largest European countries, with a territory of 312,679 square kilometers (120,726 square miles), located in Central Europe, bordering seven countries and with access to the Baltic Sea to the north and Carpathian Mountains to the south. Its population of over 38.4 million people consists mostly of Poles (over 96 percent of respondents). The official language is Polish. The capital and biggest city is Warsaw, located in the central part of the country. As with many other countries in the Central and Eastern European region, Poland was part of the Eastern Bloc until 29 December 1989, when it officially became the Republic of Poland. On 1 May 2004, Poland, together with another nine countries, became a member of the European Union. The new political system granted citizens of Poland freedom of speech and the press, freedom of religion, access to free education (including universities) and universal health care. The stable economy, together with democratic politics and international relations, has resulted in rapid growth of wealth and social development. Poland is above the EU average for the number of citizens with a university education - over 21 percent of all adults, and one of the lowest ratios of early non-completers from education programs - 5 percent. The unemployment rate is also one of the lowest in the EU - 3.7 percent (Eurostat, 2019).

Emotional intelligence research in Poland

The interest in emotional intelligence (El) in Poland, like other countries, started in the 1990s with the highly popular book by Daniel Goleman (1995), which was based on the first published scholarly article by researchers Salovey and Mayer (1990). Goleman’s claim that El is a key to success in life attracted many followers, led to the concept becoming recognizable, and led to El being associated with his name. However, the challenges of understanding the El concept came from a lack of consistent explanation of its definition and created many critics. Mayer, Salovey, and Caruso (2000) note how over-enthusiastic claims of the predictive power of El got ahead of the scientific research and led to misconceptions and controversy. The accumulating number of studies over the next decade began to differentiate the Ability model (Mayer & Salovey), the Trait model (Bar-On) and the Competency model (Goleman & Boyatzis) and to see the rise of several assessment tools aligned respectively with each model (see Chapter 1, this volume).

In Poland, there is notable interest in the area of social and emotional competencies (see Matczak & Martowska, 2009, 2011). Controversies and misconceptions about El have also required clarification (Smieja & Orzechowski, 2008). Matczak and her colleague (2003, 2006, 2007; Matczak & Knopp, 2013) have been major researchers focusing on incorporating El into psychological research and adapting English versions or developing original tests of El in Polish. For example, Knopp (2014) provided critique and reflections on the El construct and Matczak (2006) advanced the theory by proposing an organization of El with a general division between cognitive and strategic abilities. Other researchers in Poland have applied El across a wide range of fields and have developed numerous measures as will be described in the next two sections.

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